Minister rejects call on Leeds children’s surgery unit

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A MINISTER rejected calls in the Commons to intervene and save the threatened children’s heart surgery unit in Leeds.

Health minister Simon Burns said it would be “totally inappropriate” for him to interfere and insisted the final decision would be made by medical experts and not politicians. He was quizzed yesterday on the issue in the Commons after Pudsey Tory MP Stuart Andrew secured a high profile parliamentary debate.

Mr Andrew said: “Emotions will run high, this is a very emotive subject.

“It’s incredibly moving to listen to the families I’ve been speaking to since this first came up.

“They talk about how their children and babies were so close to death and thanks to the expertise provided at this location their children, they may be poorly, but at least they’re here and they’re under the wonderful care that’s provided. I believe there’s a case to be made for Leeds in geography, population and access - we like ticking boxes in this country and everything is ticked.”

But Mr Burns replied: “No decision has been made about which centres should continue to undertake surgery. This will be decided only after the consultation has been properly and fully considered.

“It would be totally inappropriate for me to be seen to either interfere, pre-judge or prejudice any outcome of the consultation process.”

Leeds General Infirmary is currently one of 11 regional centres carrying out cardiac operations on youngsters.

But it is under serious threat as a national review means there will be fewer, larger units across the country.

Out of four options now being considered, children’s heart surgery is only maintained at Leeds in one.

Instead youngsters and their families would have to travel hundreds of miles to Newcastle.

Angry parents and the LGI-based charity the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund have started a high-profile campaign as they say lives will be put at risk.

Radio One DJ Sara Cox re-tweeted a link to an online petition to her 203,000 followers on Twitter.

The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund has launched its Save Our Surgery Campaign and has organised a public meeting next Tuesday at The Bremner Suite at Elland Road from 5pm until 7pm. For details go to www.chsf.org.uk.

A consultation run by the national reviewers is currently underway and supporters of the Leeds unit can have their say at a meeting in the city on May 10.

To register log on to www.specialisedservices.nhs.uk/safeandsustainable.

katie.baldwin@ypn.co.uk

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